Books, books, and more books; the only thing to have kept me company during my sick leave! Thanks to an un-yet diagnosed issue with my very well prodded and tested intestines, I’ve been off for the past three weeks. In between the bouts of pain and codeine sleepiness, and not being able to leave the house, I’ve fallen back onto my love of reading.
I made the active choice to not return to my old favourites that I’ve read time and time again, to make way for some new(ish) books – Good Omens, The Mabinogion, and Louis Theroux’s autobiography. This actually got me thinking about my favourite books, and boy oh boy do I have a lot across various genres. So, I thought I’d share them with you! Here are some of my favourite books across eight genres…
1. Classic – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
First up, let’s define what a classic novel is. To me, it’s a book that has stood the test of time. In current culture, it’s the ones you get told to read growing up, the ones that make people seem smart when they talk about them, and are probably considered to be in the Western Canon. Despite reading numerous ‘classic’ books in my A-Levels and undergraduate degree, I had not ever read To Kill a Mockingbird. That is, until I started dating my boyfriend. He is not a big reader himself, but he loves this book and the Gregory Peck film adaptation. So, in the early honeymoon stages of our relationship, he started reading it to me. I’ve got such fond memories of sitting out in the sun or wrapped in blankets and hearing the words wash over me. It also helps that it’s a damn interesting book, with an important message about prejudice and justice.
2. Memoir – Just Kids by Patti Smith
Every person who is involved in the arts needs to read this book. That’s my opening statement,and I am going with it. This is the memoir of punk icon and poet Patti Smith, and tells the story of her relationship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe. Smith’s voice comes across so beautifully in this book, and it feels like she’s in the room with you, telling you the story herself. As well as being a memoir, it’s part-coming-of-age, part-romance, part-poetry. It also captures Smith’s early rise to fame, and how she started to find her creative voice. To me, as a creative mess, the sections about her artistry and creativity were the most important parts of the book, and I poured over her words. I could easily open up this book at any page, and admire the words within.
3. Horror – The Shining by Stephen King
I never used to be interested in reading or watching horror films, until I finished this.. I had half-watched the film version of The Shining at a sleepover as a teenager, and rather enjoyed it. A few years later, I found a copy of the book in a charity shop and took it home with me. I was sucked in straight away. My first thoughts were regarding how different the novel is to the book, whilst still cutting a similar plotline. My second thoughts on this book were, well, nothing; I was hooked on the book, I wasn’t thinking anything else! The Shining did what any good horror needs to do; it spooked me out, big time. I was checking what was at the end of my bed and in my bathtub for a long time after I finished the book. This book really opened the world of horror in film and literature to me, and whilst I still haven’t explored it thoroughly, I am excited to!
4. Young Adult – Looking for Alaska by John Green
Ahh, John Green; the voice of my teenage years! In around 2013, after sobbing at his novel The Fault in Our Stars, I made it a challenge to read all of his novels (which I did – five points to Hufflepuff!). I really liked his novels, but the one that has stuck with me the most has to be Looking For Alaska. As a teenager, I could see those characters around me, in my life. The book felt so real. This was the first book to also really hit me with grief (don’t worry, I am not going to spoil the novel). I genuinely cried for days after finishing it; it engaged with my life and my emotions in no way a book had ever had. Even after reading it multiple times, I still would get that huge tug of emotion and will always be invested in those characters.
5. Crime – The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
To some people, this could be classed as a horror. However, this is truly a crime novel to me. It’s got all of your main crime players; police, murders, the FBI, and the bad guy. I picked this book up after seeing (and getting totally enthralled by) the TV show Hannibal, and soon learnt it was inspired by a series of books. Out of all of the books in the series, this once was my favourite. I’m a sucker for a well-rounded female lead, and we get that in Clarice Starling, along with a truly riveting storyline. Sure, it does have aspects of horror thrown in, but I think that helps in making it all the better.
6. Coming of Age – The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Quick, someone put another pound in the ‘Rosie Mentions The Bell Jar Jar’! At this point in my life, I think my body is made up of 60% water and 40% The Bell Jar. I first discovered this book in my teenage years, when I was trying to find classic novels that weren’t written by old, white men. When I first read it, I saw my own anxiety of deciding what to do in life reflected on the page. Since then, each time I read the novel, I see aspects of myself. In the coming-of-age of Esther, I have learnt about my depression, love, being a woman in this society, creativity, and getting better. I have forgotten how many times I have read this book, but every time I do, I learn something about myself. I can’t think of another novel that has had this profound an effect on me.
7. Poetry – Ten Years in an Open Necked Shirt by John Cooper Clarke
I’d like to thank Arctic Monkeys for introducing me to the work of John Cooper Clarke. On their ruddy excellent 2013 album ‘AM’, their final song on the album is called I Wanna Be Yours, and is the most wedding dance-esque song you’ll get from them. The lyrics are actually a poem from JCC, and prompted me to buy this collection of poems; Ten Years in an Open Necked Shirt. His work focuses on culture and the working classes; two of my favourite things to discuss in literature. He’s called a “punk poet” for a reason; his work is loud and brash and has a reason to exist. Most of his work is made to be spoken word, so it’s a joy to read outloud (if you don’t mind swearing that is).
8. Autobiography – I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
We start with a memoir, and end with an autobiography. Whilst a memoir tends to cover a specific aspect of someone’s life, an autobiography covers their lifespan. This novel is the first in Angelou’s seven-part autobiographical series, and describes her childhood years. When reading Angelou’s poetry, she has such a beautiful and distinct tone, that also comes across in this book. I won’t lie, I found this book to be a tough read. There were moments where I had to shut to book and leave it for a few days to come to terms with what happened in her life, or I would read through the rest of a chapter whilst crying. Angelou’s honesty in the novel truly makes it an exceptional piece of literature. It also shows the reality of racism and trauma, and how she herself started to overcome it with support and the power of literature. This book is high on my list of books everybody needs to read.
So, those are my favourite books across eight genres! I know I missed out a lot of genres here; sorry you romance and history fans. However, let me know if you’d like to know more about my favourites in other genres; drop some genres suggestions below! Also, if you’ve read any of these books on my list, let me know – I’d love to know what you think.